Ken Leung and Bonnie Lam loved their leafy, coveted neighborhood in central Toronto, but the couple—big fans of Japanese architect Tadao Ando—wanted to raise the design bar on their dowdy 1920s house before they settled in. The solution: knock down the garage, sell half of the lot to a new neighbor, and hire a local architect to build a new house in the piece that was left.
In Donald Chong of Williamson Chong Architects, they found their match: a young designer devoted to small-scale urban infill and experimentation. Ken and Donald were long-lost high school acquaintances, and their shared history plus a similar sense of aesthetics established an easy sense of trust. The couple spelled out their basic design wants and helped select hardware and countertops, but they gave Chong free rein in the planning stage: "We asked for at least one significant architectural element that would make our home unique," says Leung. "Don gave us at least four."
The most striking feature is the "kitchen-studio," as Chong calls it, a first-floor entertainment space that is wrapped, floor to ceiling, with custom cabinetry in rift-cut white oak. Visitors always wonder where the stuff is hidden away, and Leung and Lam—who hate visible clutter—make the most of all that storage space. "The great thing is, we're really only using half of the cabinets," Leung adds, "so there's lots of room to grow."
The Design Details
The eight-foot-tall cabinet doors make the kitchen feel like one seamless unit.
The custom beveled edge for the island's "Blizzard" white Caesarstone countertop forgoes the standard one-inch countertop overhang to save on space and maintain a sleek feel.
To keep the room's sight lines open, an angled trim was used for the back nook that Leung and Lam requested for food prep. A Vola faucet is used with a sink by Mekal.
The dining table, fabricated by KGA Kitchens from Chong's design, sits underneath pendant lamps by Nud Collection. Vintage teak chairs were designed by Niels Møller in 1954.
Alex Bozikovic is a Toronto based writer and editor for the Globe and Mail and frequent Dwell contributor. While interviewing Studio Junction's Christine Ho Ping Kong and Peter Tan, the architect-residents of the Courtyard House, he was impressed by the couple's remarkable DIY chutzpah and became inspired to try a major project himself. Someday. Maybe.